Interview

Open ePolicy : Reshaping ICT ecosystems, reengineer government, rewriting business models : Jeff Kaplan, International Technology Consultant, & Founder, Open ePolicy Group, United States of America

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Please tell us about Open ePolicy Group and some of the key initiatives of your group.
The Open ePolicy Group (OeG) is an unprecedented global collaboration among senior officials from 13 nations, thought leaders from 5 global organi-sations, experts from 2 leading techno- logy companies and academics from one of the world’s most respected univer-sities. They came together to share their experiences in building open ICT ecosystems. The OeG’s first product, the ‘Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems’, presents a new vision for technology to the world based on open technologies. We are now organising a phase-II of the OeG, which will take our work one step

further, focusing on how open techno-logies and new types of collaboration can drive business transformation of enterprises and government.

Open ePolicy Group talks about open ICT ecosystems. Can you please briefly tell us about them.
In its roadmap, the OeG focuses attention on open information and communi-cations (ICT) ecosystems. An ICT eco- system encompasses the policies, strate-gies, processes, information, technolo- gies, applications and stakeholders that together make up a technology environ-ment for a country, government or an enterprise. The most important element of an ICT ecosystem, however, is people – the diverse individuals who create, buy, sell, regulate, manage and use technology. 

The OeG believes that there is a new dynamic at play in our globalised world called “openness.” Openness – a synthesis of collaborative creativity, connectivity, access and transparency – is revolutioni-sing how we communicate, connect and compete. It reshapes ICT ecosystems, and makes it possible to reengineer government, rewrite business models, accelerate innovation, and create truly user-centric enterprises.

For the OeG, the goal is to “openize” an ICT ecosystem, meaning to make it more capable of incorporating and sustaining interoperability, collaborative development, innovation and transpa-rency. This roadmap focuses on the transformative impact of increasing openness across an entire ICT ecosystem.

How wide is the usage of open-source documents? Are closed source more secure and protects against security breakers?
If we are speaking about software, there is no doubt that the use of open source software globally is increasing sharply.  It represents a powerfully disruptive approach to technology. Although most people tend to focus on the access to code that open source offers, I see its greatest long-term impact is proving anew the developmental power of collaboration. Collaboration, not code, is the true power of open source.

It is often thought that open source movement is opposed to intellectual proprietary rights. What is your opinion about this?
Anyone who thinks that open source is by nature inconsistent with intellectual property rights either misunderstands what open source is or is intentionally spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).  Intellectual property rights always represent a balance between initial creators and users (and later modifiers) of innovation. Open source simply weighs that balance differently than the traditional IPR regimes that were built in the 19th century. Open source proponents see that the world has changed, and IPR needs to adapt.

In a world where ICT can dramatically increase the speed and lower the costs of collaboration, development, supply chains and distribution, open source

soft-ware and open standards demonstr-ate that shifting the IPR balance more in fav-our of users and later innovators creates new avenues of innovation.

The Internet is only the latest, greatest exam-ple of this trend. Open source is a vision based less on things and more on services; it is less about monopolies and more about collaborative creation. Innovation today is more about networks than labs, and IPR needs to better accommodate this.

Open ePolicy Group stresses on usability of open source documents in disaster rehabilitation efforts. Please elaborate on the same.
The Open ePolicy Group consistently tries to ground its work in practical, real life situations. Our work is not meant to be an academic exercise.  It is meant to be used.  Unfortunately, the failings of existing approaches to ICT are proven again and again during disasters. 

In our roadmap, we used Thailand’s experience during the 2005 tsunami to highlight the costs of not having information and IT systems that are open, interoperable and interchangeable.  We could have pointed to India or even the United States during the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans. Disaster management is only one painful example of how open standards, open data formats and less reliance on proprietary ICT can offer tangible benefits, in this case to aid relief efforts. It is not a magic solution, but it might have helped.

How, in your view, is the progress of Asian countries in open source movement? Which are the countries that are leading this movement in Asia and how could countries like India learn from their experiences?
Asia is clearly a leader in open source. There are a lot of reasons for this. Certain governments, in China and Korea for example, were quick to recognise the value proposition offered by open source. They want more control over their ICT decisions.  They see great value in an approach to technology development that gives their citizens and companies more access to the tools of innovation – standards, code, computers and collaborative networks.

Especially in developing countries, the protectionist instincts common to all governments are less potent because they have fewer entrenched, domestic IT industries to protect.  This is actually a tremendous advantage for them. They are able to quickly capitalise on new approaches to technology, like the open source model. The next step is to see if any governments in Asia will take a similar leadership position in promoting open standards and business transforma-tion. This will really level the playing field for their entrepreneurs and engineers.

I see India as a microcosm for tomorrow’s ICT ecosystem. It is a dynamic, fast-changing mix of innovation, open technologies, digital divides, political complexity, hyper-modern companies and antiquated infrastructure. It is experiencing all the challenges and promise of technology and development, all at the same time.

One thing that India (indeed all us) should consider is the experience of other countries and companies with new types of partnerships. It is not only a question of new forms of public – private partnerships but also new ways to involve users in the development of content and services. Re-imaging relationships among government, businesses and consumers, as with all things, requires vision and leadership.

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